Beware the predator wolf in sheep’s clothing
By Anne Stephenson, of Paraparaumu
( Anne is a retired Methodist minister and hospital chaplain with long experience of working with sex abuse victims…and perpetrators)
The sexual assault on a boy in Ranui, Waitemata, last week has highlighted the need for the public to be aware of personality traits often exhibited by sex offenders.
Empathy and compassion are usually absent, but the offender can often be undetected because because he or she is plausible and appears to be caring.
In the past, when communities were smaller and people knew each each other over many years, people were more aware who was unsafe and who was not.
Today in a more individualized community we do not have the same community awareness. One of the difficulties is that people who can cause harm may appear to be very plausible and appear caring.
The Ranui abduction and sexual assault of an 11 year old boy is a case in point. A man in a grey car asked for help and the boy may have naturally tried to assist.
The man who abducted the boy shows great manipulation, a great sense of entitlement and certainly no respect for the boy and his family.
The community are right to be alarmed that such evil appeared in their midst.
Tool for police
The tool for the police is the register of sex offenders, but one has to have a history of offending to get on it.
Lustberg Law advocate that often when a horrendous crime like this happens, there is also a murder because this is a way for the offender to remove a witness to the crime.
As a community, this issue leads to loss of trust and fear for our young people. We try and protect them with “stranger danger “ education. Yet so often the offender is also known and loved within the community.
A good test
There is a good test to have in mind when you meet people, or assess what you already know.
Does this person have empathy and compassion for others? After the learning from the Louise Nicholas scenario, the police now value compassion and empathy when recruiting new police.
The reason they take this course? This is more likely to weed out the narcissistic person or the psychopathic person.
Both these personality types can appear to be charming, and to fit in very well, but they can cause chaos because of their self serving, their sense of entitlement and their opportunistic ways of operating.
Empathy, compassion the glue
But empathy and compassion are the glue which holds society together.
We certainly notice this in the post-earthquake time that we are now living in.
The intruder who took goods from a home where the people evacuated has caused horror in the country, but is an example of self seeking, and a mindlessness of other people’s situations.
When rearing young children, empathy and compassion are the most essential qualities we can pass on and at the very beginning. This is done by mirroring a child back to itself and taking seriously what communication means from day one.
Sometimes children never get the message because their initial brain development brings difference outcomes. So there is a lot of research going on as we learn more about the patterns of the brain.
However, alongside the learning of empathy, compassion and sharing, people also have to learn to be aware of those in our midst who can do harm to others because they lack the basic qualities of empathy and compassion.
What a fine line we all walk in assisting ourselves to be better citizens!
We need to be remember that structural or institutional power does not make a person right, it just means they can do more damage if they get it wrong.
Editor’s note: Anne Stephenson is the author of ‘Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions’ (Philip Garside Publications)